National blog posting month is over! They say it takes 3 weeks of doing something continuously before it becomes a habit. After 30 days of daily posting let’s see if my daily blogging will continue. Of course I will be taking a week off for Hajj when I won’t have email access at all- my excuses are starting already… 🙂

Pedestrian right of way

The way people around here cross the street says a lot about them. Generally speaking:

  • Arabs (especially in thobes) will saunter across the street and expect traffic to stop for them
  • Desis (Indian, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis) scurry across streets ensuring they do not get hit
  • Asians (Philippino, Malaysians, Indonesians) wait for traffic to pass before they walk across roads

The first group will be surprised if you do not stop for them- the last two groups will be surprised if you do stop for them.


Saudi Arabia recently removed two books related to Qutb from it’s school libraries. One is written by him, and one is apparently about him. Extremist ideas and deviant ideology is the given reason. IT’S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE PAID ATTENTION!!

Many Muslims consider Qutb’s writings  to be the bastion of Islam without care or worry. They encourage young impressionable minds to read certain books without regard to the content and the context. Banning his books (or any book for that matter) is not the solution; however Qutb’s books need to be read with a full understanding of the context and life circumstances of the author (which is true for all authors).

Some works are particularly insidious in today’s world. Written by authors who hate the “West” and broadly stereotype everything and everyone, persecuted in their own countries, these bitter individuals are/were trying to bring about change through the only means they had available, revolution. Their writings embed the seed of revolt and encourage action, even (especially) if violent. In today’s increasingly divided world, with “us vs them” mantras, disenfranchised masses, and easy access to improvised tools of destruction, violence is becoming the first option rather than the last.

Several years ago I spoke at a gathering of 700-800 people about the need to revise Islamic school curriculums in the US. I mentioned that we have to be aware when an author is writing for political objectives, regardless of how familiar we are with his writings. Some authors teach “hate the West” philosophies which are very problematic for our youth because they too are the West! We should not be encouraging self-hate. If we want our youth to learn about social activism we need to point them towards  Malcolm X, not Qutb. They need to accept who they are and work towards changing systems- not hate who they are and lash out against the world. Instead of always allocating blame we need to take responsibility for the places where we are deliberately or inadvertently part of the problem.

Not surprisingly I was the most controversial speaker on that panel. The responses and questions fell along a generational divide. Roughly speaking, immigrants forty and older disagreed with my critique of their favorite authors; first generation youth thirty and younger agreed with what I said.

Just don’t get me started on Ibn Tahmiyah 😀

sanctity of marriage

In today’s crazy world of changing standards, double standards and no standards marriage as an institution has come under “attack”. The following two articles in yesterday’s news made my head spin. Both stories are about the same action, one done for lack of love, and the other one done for the sake of love.

Links to articles and some excerpts:

Who knew Korea had such laws…

Korean adulterer faces jail term

South Korean prosecutors have demanded an 18-month jail term for a popular actress who admitted breaking the country’s strict laws on adultery.

Ok So-ri had sought to overturn the 50-year old legislation, which carries a maximum jail sentence of two years.

She said it was an infringement of human rights and mounted to revenge.

But in October the constitutional court ruled for the fourth time that adultery must remain a crime, saying it was damaging to social order.

Ms Ok has admitted having an affair with a well-known pop singer and her husband, Park Chul, is said to be seeking “a severe sentence”.

‘Loveless marriage’

She blamed her infidelity on a loveless marriage to Mr Park, also an actor, and launched a legal challenge against the adultery law itself.

On the other hand we have this news:

American girl, Arab man get jail and lashes for adultery

JEDDAH – The Summary Court in Jeddah has sentenced a 23-year-old Arab national and an 18-year-old American girl to one year in prison and 100 lashes each after they were convicted of adultery.

The father of the girl reported the relationship to the authorities after his daughter became pregnant.

The father accused the Arab man of intentionally doing so in order to force her parents into letting them get married.

The parents of the girl had previously refused to let their daughter marry the man.

Did the married lady actually think she would find love through a transient affair? Why didn’t she get divorced if her marriage was so horrible?

And on the other hand, what is up with those kids and their parents? How desperate does one have to be to deliberately get pregnant to get married? And is the pregnant girl actually going to get 100 lashes? What was the father thinking when he reported his own daughter?

So many wrongs still don’t add up to a right.

Arab music videos

While channel surfing through our free line-up (we do not have cable) I discovered Melody Arabia. I have not seen music videos for more than 15 years (not since high school, with the exception of “fix you” by coldplay on youtube 2 years ago). Let me just say it has been a surprise… no a shock is more like it.

I do not know if these videos actually represent Arab culture in 2008. Some have a great beat, some are funny, but the vast majority are just plain odd. There are a few that have shower scenes, except these are the male singers/actors expressing despair while standing fully clothed under a shower, or sometimes showing water trickling down a hairy shoulder. Do grown men really do this? Who is the target audience of these things?

The majority of Arabs I know have dark eyes and dark hair. In fact the stereotypical “exotic eastern beauty” has dark almond -shaped eyes, olive skin and black hair. So why is it that so many of the female singers have light eyes and light (lightened) hair?

Based on these videos, it would also seem that long hair and two-day stubbly chins are en vogue for men. Which raises the question, how do people continuously maintain a 2-day stubble?

Saudi Royalty- 2

Saudi nationals are very protective of their King and tend to treat the royalty with a lot of reverence. My disclaimer up front is that I am NOT doing any royal-bashing, I am simply trying to get a handle on the governance structure of this place (and history).

The next table lists the wives of King Abdulaziz al-Saud, and his kids (in no particular order). There were 22 declared wives, 48 legitimate sons and several others. He did not have more than 4 wives at a time. The info available is sketchy and incomplete and thus the table compiled below should not be considered accurate or reliable. The numbers are just for counting purposes, and do not specify the order in which the marriages took place. Many of the alliances were political, many from the same tribes. The Sudayri wife who bore more than 20 children (including the Sudayri 7) was considered one of his favorites.

Wife Children dates Kings
1 Wadhha bint Muhammad bin Burghush divorced
  1. (m) Turki
  2. (m) Saud
  3. (f) Nura
  4. (f) Munira
2. Saud
2 Tarfah bint Abdullah al-Shaikh Abdul-Wahab
  1. (m) Khaled
  2. (m) Faisal
  3. (m) Saad
  4. Nura
3. Faisal
3 Jawhara bint Musaid bin Jiluwi Al Jiluwi
  1. (m) Muhammad
  2. (m) Khalid
  3. (f) Anud
4. Khalid
4 bint Khalid bin Faysal Al Hithlayn
  1. (m) Jiluwi
5 Lajah bint Khalid bin Hithlayn divorced
  1. (f) Sara
6 Hassa bint Ahmad bin Muhammad Al Sudayri divorced
  1. m-Fahd
  2. m- Sultan
  3. f- Luluwah
  4. m- Abdur rahman
  5. m- Naif
  6. m- Turki
  7. m- Salman
  8. m- Ahmed
  9. f- Jawahir
  10. f- Lateefa
  11. f- Zameera
  12. Al-Takhi
  13. Mahtab ul Rashid
  14. f- Sameena
  15. m- Fahid
  16. m- Usman bin Abdullah
  17. m-Farhad Naifi
  18. m- Kamran Naifi
  19. f- Al Jawahir
  20. f- Moudhi
  21. f- Felwa



5. Fahd
7 Bint Ahmad al-Dhukayr divorced
  1. f- Jawhara
8 Bazza
  1. m- Nasir
9 Jawhara bint Saad bin Abd al-Muhsin Al Sudayri
  1. m- Saad
  2. f- Hussa
  3. m- Musaid
  4. m- Abdul Muhsin
  5. f- Al Bandari
10 Bazza
  1. m- Bandar
  2. m- Fawwaz
11 Shahida
  1. m- Mansur
  2. m- Mishal
  3. f- Qumasha
  4. m- Mutib
  5. m- Salman
12 Nura bint Hamud divorced
  1. m- Nayif
13 Fahda bint al Asi bin Shuraim
  1. m- Abdullah
  2. f- Nur
  3. f- Sita
1924- 6. Abdullah
14 Munayir
  1. m- Talal
  2. m- Talal
  3. f- Mishari
  4. m Nawwaf
15 Haya bint Saad bin Abd al-Muhsin Al Sudayri 1913-2003
  1. f- Nura
  2. m- Badr
  3. m- Badr
  4. m- Abdullah
  5. m- Abdul Majid
  6. f- Hussa
  7. f- Mishayl
16 Dalal
  1. m- Thamir
17 Mudhi Al Sudayri
  1. m- Majid
  2. f- Sultana
  3. f- Haya
  4. f- Jawza
  5. m- Majid
  6. m- Sattam
18 Nuf bint Nawwaf bin Nuri Al Sha’lan
  1. m- Thamir
  2. m- Mamduh
  3. m- Mashur
19 Saida al Yamaniyah
  1. f- Abta
  2. m- Hihlul
20 Baraka al Yamaniyah
  1. m- Mugran
22 Aisha
  1. f- Tarfa
23 Futayma
  1. m- Hammad
24 Khadra
  1. m- Abdus Salam
25 Bushra
  1. m-Mishari
26 Hussa bint Minahi al-Sur divorced
  1. f- Sultana
27 ?
  1. m- Jiluwi
  2. f- Dalil
  3. f- Salwa
28 ?
  1. (m) Khalid
29 ?
  1. (m) Muhammad
30 ?
  1. (m) Abdullah
31 ?
  1. m- Fahd
32 ? divorced
  1. m- Fahd
  2. f- ?
33 ?
  1. f- Shaykha
34 ?
  1. m- Badr
35 Al- Jazi bint Muhammad bin Hazzam Hithlayn divorced
36 Jawahir bint Muhammad bin Talal Al Rashid divorce?
37 Sarah bint Abdullah bin Faisal Al Saud divorced
38 Bint Figri
39 Wasmiyah al-Damir
40 Kalthum bint Ibrahim bin Ufaysan divorced
41 Hussa bint Sahan bin Zayd al Mutluq divorced
42 Dahha
43 Hussa bint Bandar bin Watban Mutayr


of gold and glitter- 2

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

by J.R.R. Tolkien

The most common complaints that one hears from expats are the following:

  • Nothing to do but shopping
  • Nothing to do but socializing
  • Inability to drive
  • Censorship of materials
  • Being forced to wear abayas
  • Shops closing at prayer times

These are intriguing because they are complaints about the lack of choice rather than the actual issue itself. In many many many other countries of the world, expats and/or suburban wives do the same by choice:

  • Shopping
  • Socializing
  • Having chauffeur driven cars (in many emerging economies, expats will rarely drive- actually, middle class and up everyone has drivers)
  • The official position on restricting media and the actuality are very different here. EVERYTHING is available, and quite openly- from music, DVDs, software to books. In fact it is rather odd but the english bookstores around here don’t do any censoring. In some stores you will see faces of women blacked on magazine covers and in other stores there are romance novels that include explicit sex. It is a strange and confused world 🙂
  • This one is quite interesting as it has two major aspects that need to be examined. We can all agree that forcing any particular clothing is just as wrong as forbidding any type of clothing (raises issues about places like France but that is for another post) so let’s leave that aside. One the one side covering up is actually safer for women around here. In many other countries expats dress to fit in anyway but they are not forced to do so (at least not legally, socially it would be VERY unsafe to step out on the streets). We can like it or dislike it but it definitely helps on the safety side. The second aspect is of respecting the culture and not deliberately being offensive. The problem is, many expats are willing (actually consider it their right) to do as they please without respecting the culture that is hosting them. The arrogance/attitude that a different culture must be “less” than theirs is at the crux of this matter. There always a few who want to make a statement and prove their point. This is where the problems emerge. It would be better to help the locals make their own statements rather than trying to prove something. This might sound like being accepting and compromising however the bigger picture has to be looked at. How does one actually bring about change in a system? The most effective way is organically, and bottom up (albeit not the not expedient). External intrusions are just that, intrusions. They do not stick unless coming from within. The alternative is breaking the system- this one can be done from outside the system, however it tends to be messy and more importantly, the consequences are suffered by the people inside the system. It is easy to create trouble and then just walk away, however it’s very irresponsible. Social change is necessary and should be done- but seriously, not as a frivolous hobby to keep boredom at bay. For those who want to help women and their rights, help the Saudi women and activists who are fighting the battle at the front-lines.
  • This is once again an example of creating hard and fast rules that would be better served by having flexible guidelines. While being inconvenient when in a hurry, it is actually rather nice this “lifestyle choice” (of praying!) is not something that one has to hide or do surreptitiously.

I once attended a lecture at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. There was a remarkable reverend who stated (paraphrased very loosely) that what we need is respect, not tolerance. With tolerance we still think the other is wrong and we are the better ones for “putting up” with them. Respect is different because it is an acknowledgement that the other can also be right. You are not any better because you accept the differences of the other.